Ministry calls for widespread testing of dairy after scare about additive

08:11, February 18, 2011      

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The Ministry of Agriculture said fresh dairy products must be tested for leather-hydrolyzed protein, in addition to melamine, after it learned that some milk contained the potentially poisonous additive.

Guangzhou-based 21st Century Business Herald reported Tuesday that the ministry released a 2011 quality-testing plan last week.

The notice said all fresh milk products must be tested for leather hydrolyzed protein and base materials. The report said leather hydrolyzed protein is extracted from leather scraps waste and are added to dairy products to enrich their protein content.

After testing, relevant departments have to inform higher authorities of their findings and trace the source of the products if they find the banned substance in the samples, the report said.

The additive contains toxic chemicals including potassium dichromate and sodium dichromate used to soften the leather.

Users are at risk of developing osteoporosis from the toxic chemicals.

Long-term exposure to the chemicals could cause cancer and death among children, the report said.

An unidentified official at the ministry told the newspaper that they have imposed stricter testing requirements.

The newspaper said some illegal manufacturers add leather hydrolyzed protein to dairy products after the controversy over melamine lead to a major crackdown in 2008.

That year, 300,000 children in China were sickened and six died, the Xinhua News Agency reported earlier.

Overseas, including the BBC, reprinted the report about the latest scare. Some reports described the issue as another scandal.

Wang Dingmian, former executive director of the Dairy Association of China, told the Global Times Wednesday that some reports exaggerated the danger and that the ministry asked for such a test in 2009 after the substance was found in products made by Jinhua-based Chenyuan Diary Company in Zhejiang Province as well as in Shandong, Shanxi and Hebei provinces.

Wang said manufacturers were found using the substance in milk since 2005. However, dairy producers turned to melamine because it was cheaper than leather hydrolyzed protein.

"Since 2008, the government has kept an eye on the quality of domestic dairy products. The cases in 2009 involving leather hydrolyzed protein has caught the country's attention and few cases have been found ever since," Wang told the Global Times.

The ministry did not reply to questions from the Global Times Wednesday.

By Pan Yan, Global Times
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